Friday, June 12, 2009

Tea country - and attacked by leeches

I'm currently in Sri Lanka, looking at the impact climate change is having on the country's tea industry....more of that in another post to come.

But while doing my research, I can boast (?) of a new experience...being bitten by a leech. Eurgh.

apparently their saliva acts as an anti-coagulant; so blood doesnt stop coming out of where they have attacked you. A sobering experience.

I've just googled leeches...and come up with these factoids...

Like earthworms, leeches are hermaphrodites. Some, but not all leeches feed on blood.

A leech attaches itself when it bites, and it will stay attached until it has had its fill of blood. Due to an anticoagulant (hirudin) that leeches secrete, bites may bleed more than a normal wound after the leech is removed. The effect of the anticoagulant will wear off several hours after the leech is removed and the wound is cleaned.

Leeches normally carry parasites in their digestive tract which cannot survive in humans and do not pose a threat. However, bacteria, viruses, and parasites from previous blood sources can survive within a leech for months, and may be retransmitted to humans.

A common but medically inadvisable technique to remove a leech is to apply a flame, a lit cigarette, salt, soap, or a caustic chemical such as alcohol, vinegar, lemon juice, insect repellent, heat rub, or certain carbonated drinks. These cause the leech to regurgitate its stomach contents into the wound and quickly detach. The vomit may carry disease and increases the risk of infection.[3][4][5]

Simply pulling a leech off by grasping it can also cause regurgitation, and adds risks of further tearing the wound, and leaving parts of the leech's jaw in the wound, which can also increase the risk of infection.